Spanish police arrest 16 in connection with pro-independence protests
Two mayors, a photojournalist and president's nephew among those temporarily detained over 'public disorder' offenses
Spanish police made a total of 16 arrests on Wednesday in a day-long operation that led to the detention of two mayors, a photojournalist, and a number of pro-independence activists, including the nephew of president Quim Torra.
Legal representatives of five people arrested in the afternoon said the police operation was concerned with public disorder offenses, such as the blocking of the high-speed train line by protesters on the anniversary of the October 1 independence referendum.
The same sources said the detained photojournalist is Carles Palacio, who covered the morning arrests outside a police station, and that president Quim Torra's nephew, who is an activist for the far-left CUP party, was among the five people arrested later in the day.
Two mayors detained
The day began with the arrests of two mayors from the pro-independence CUP party, in the northern region of Girona. Nine activists from the CDR protest group were also temporarily detained, all of them for public disorder offenses.
All of the 11 people arrested earlier in the day, including the two mayors, were later released to wait for the court to summon them to answer public disorder charges. Six other people also wanted by the police could not be located.
Ignasi Sabater, mayor of Verges, was one of the local officials arrested, with the other being the head of the Celrà council, Dani Cornellà.
Shortly afterwards, Sabater's lawyer, Benet Salellas, called the detentions "unjustified and disproportionate," and claimed the arrests were related to a demonstration held in Girona on December 6, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution.
Support for arrested officials
On hearing of their arrests, the Catalan parliament speaker showed his support for the detained pro-independence mayors: "We hope they are immediately released. Stop with the repression, enough with criminalizing public protest," he said.
"The arrests seem absolutely disproportionate, we hope they are promptly released, and we demand maximum transparency about this operation by the Spanish police," added the government vice president, Pere Aragonès.
Protest in parliament
Meanwhile, the JxCAT, ERC and CUP pro-independence parties abandoned the parliamentary committees convened for Wednesday morning to protest the detentions.
CUP MP Maria Sirvent said the Spanish police “continues to act in the same way it did under the Franco regime,” stating “they will not pass, we will keep organizing, fighting, and resisting this offensive by those who are allergic to democracy.”
Carlos Carrizosa, the spokesperson for the unionist Ciutadans party, accused MPs who left the committees of being "lazy" and not earning their salary. "They want to get paid without going to work, and today they found the perfect excuse," he said.
The Catalan Socialists also complained about the pro-independence parties not attending the parliamentary committees in protest over the arrest of the two mayors. "The chamber has experienced a day of paralysis," said MP Pol Gibert.
In the evening, there were also some protests in the streets over these arrests throughout Catalonia.